Coping strategiesScience & research

What is happiness to you?

What is happiness to you?
Hayley Stanton
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Hayley Stanton

Director & Coach at Quiet Connections
Hayley shares her personal stories of feeling shy, socially anxious, ‘not good enough’ and fearfully avoiding the good things in life. Growing her confidence through coaching, gradually stretching her comfort zone and connecting with others, she now uses everything she has learned to help other people grow their confidence in her role as a coach. Hayley is passionate about connecting people with similar stories and creating safe, supportive spaces to make friends and try new things. Hayley dreams of a time when all of the strengths, skills and goodness in ‘quiet’ is recognised and appreciated as readily as being bold, gregarious, and comfortable in the spotlight is right now.
Hayley Stanton
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Did you know there are three aspects of happiness? In order to feel truly happy, we have to fulfil each of these areas: Pleasure, Engagement and Meaning. Let’s briefly explore why each of these components are important to your happiness; what activities might look like in each area; and the kind of things that could be getting in the way right now.

Pleasure

These are moments of happiness that generate positive feelings at the time, but don’t have a lasting effect. Think about the little things that (in moderation) you might consider a treat: chocolate, a massage, a relaxing bath. These are the type of activities that give you a short-term boost. You feel good during and immediately after, but they don’t generate lasting feelings of happiness. In fact, you’re hardly likely to remember the experience in a month’s time. That said, the more we increase pleasure in our lives, the happier we feel in the moment.

What gets in the way?

  • Feeling guilty for taking time out for ourselves
  • Thinking we have to be seen as being productive all of the time
  • Believing we are not deserving of a treat
  • Perceiving we don’t have enough time or money
  • Wearing busy-ness as a badge of self-worth

Engagement

These are the moments when you are in a state of flow; totally absorbed in an experience, using your strengths for a task that’s challenging but achievable. This could be include taking part in a sport; baking; DIY; taking a walk; or working on a task from your work or volunteer role. Research shows actions of engagement increase our happiness and satisfaction in life with long-term effects; creating a reservoir of positive emotion that helps to buffer against stress in the future and increase our resilience.

What gets in the way?

  • Becoming distracted or multi-tasking
  • Lacking awareness of our areas of strength
  • Taking a ‘can’t do’ or ‘not possible’ attitude
  • Believing we have to be perfect
  • Overthinking (engagement is a full-bodied experience)

Meaning

This is about having a purpose that’s bigger than you. It’s leading with your heart to live a life that has meaning and significance to you personally. One obvious example is social entrepreneurship, but it’s not necessary to seek Meaning in your career. Even if your career doesn’t make your heart sing; you can still find meaning through activities such as volunteering; supporting neighbours or family, promoting a cause, bee-keeping or gardening. What’s important is that this is something your heart desires. Living a life of meaning significantly improves your happiness levels. So, ask yourself, what’s meaningful to YOU?

What gets in the way?

  • Being disconnected from our hearts, and not sensing what’s truly important
  • Not knowing where to start with so many different interests
  • Feeling like we’re not good enough to do something this important
  • Expecting failure (so what’s the point in trying?)
  • Fear of being seen and risking judgement

Moving towards happiness

Of course, something else that can get in the way of your happiness, is spending too much time and energy focused on one of these areas. It’s important that you are balancing all three. For example, it can be too easy to get so caught up in the meaningful work that you’ve created, that you don’t make the time for the treats that bring pleasure in the moment (*hands up* totally guilty of that one!). On the other hand, you might be chasing pleasurable activities, in order to avoid the discomfort of developing self-awareness and digging deep to find what’s engaging and meaningful to you. So we need to be mindful about where we’re spending our time.

Now ask yourself these questions:

  • What are you already doing that brings you pleasure, engagement and meaning in your everyday life? Make three lists.
  • What would you like to do in each of these areas?
  • What (if anything) has been stopping you? And how are you going to change this in the future?

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